'FROM what you know about Maribor, are you confident you can go through to the group stage with the squad you have?"
It is a perfectly straightforward question to a man, Ronny Deila, who has become known for providing perfectly straightforward answers.
Loading article content
His choice of response, though, suggests the Celtic manager is beginning to come to terms with the sad, yet unavoidable, fact that honesty is not always the most advantageous policy when caught up in the pressurised greenhouse that passes for football in Glasgow.
"I know I have a lot of good football players," he said. "I know it has been said that I want to get a whole new team, but that is not true.
"I want to do it my way, but there are plenty of good players here and we have to get the best out of them."
All very well, but it is not exactly addressing the enquiry at hand. A second attempt is launched. Deila, in fairness, is marginally more forthcoming when asked whether he believes the individuals currently at his disposal are good enough to make it out of Slovenia in one piece and capitalise on the most incredible reprieve offered by Legia Warsaw's inability to fill in a piece of paper by reaching the group stage of the Champions League.
"Yeah, but, first, it is St Johnstone and I think we start there," stated Deila, referring to the Parkhead club's opening match of the SPFL Premiership campaign at McDiarmid Park next midweek.
Talk about employing the tactics of diversion. Read what you will into Deila's remarks, but it is difficult for anyone to be particularly positive about Celtic's chances of winning their two-legged qualifying round play-off in the wake of the catastrophe that unfolded over 180 minutes against Legia.
True, it is a quite unbelievable opportunity. True, it is a relative minnow in Maribor that stands between them and a very handy payday of £10m or more. However, a 6-1 aggregate defeat to a team from Poland - a team from Poland that missed two penalties in the first leg - has had a very sobering effect.
Deila certainly did not cut a jubilant figure inside Celtic's Lennoxtown training ground yesterday afternoon in spite of the day's remarkable events. He has copped enough flak from losing to Legia. Blow it against Maribor, given everything that has happened, and you can be sure the subject of his long-term suitability for this particular post will become an exceedingly hot topic.
Deila knows it. Quizzed on the pressure already weighing down upon his shoulders to start getting results, there was no attempt made to dodge the issue. "Of course I can feel that, but I'm here to win," said the 38-year-old. "You can't come to this club and develop a team to lose.
"Personally, I felt much worse after the game in Poland because that was a result I didn't see coming. I was shocked. However, I knew the second leg was going to be hard after that result.
"We tried to play offensively and go for the 3-0, but I was much calmer after the home game. If you're going to win the league, you can't afford to lose many matches. I've made it very clear what my goal is: we must win the league."
Coming out in front in what is, essentially, a one-horse race will not pacify the angrier element of the Celtic support, though. They want to see some kind of progress. They want to see greater ambition in the transfer market following a summer that brought nothing more than the arrival of a free transfer in Craig Gordon and a short-term loan deal in Jo Inge Berget.
Peter Lawwell, the chief executive, was the subject of some fairly vociferous abuse at Murrayfield the other evening. There is a widespread perception that he wants to keep spending at an absolute minimum while preparing to sell the likes of Fraser Forster and Virgil van Dijk to the highest bidder.
Deila, who claims that bringing in at least one new face before the visit to Maribor is his "main task", points out that the economics of Scottish football right now make that a rather simplistic view to hold.
"It is important to look at how you are using money," said the former Stromsgodset coach. "It is about talented players that can make themselves better and players coming in that can lift the whole team to get better performances and results. I know the club wants to do it, but it has to fall into those two categories. If I could choose, we would have many players here right now, but they have to want to come here.
"When you are talking about players in England, it is so important to remember the salaries.
"The money is so much less here in Scotland than it is in England. A Championship player earns much more than players in Celtic and it wasn't like that in 2000 or 2005.
"It is now such a big gap. Players want money. I think we can get very good players in here, but it is all about dealing with the salaries. That is the main problem. It was the same at my old club.
"We could get the players in, but we can't pay the salaries because you will ruin the whole club. One thing that fans should be proud of and I am proud of is that this is a club that is well-organised and well driven. That is going to be more important in the future.
"We have been unbelievably successful here. I understand they [fans] want names and we want more, but Celtic have achieved good things with the money that the club has. I understand that Celtic are an unbelievably big club. If we were in the English league, we would be fighting with Manchester City for players, but we play in the Scottish league and that is the difference."
Should clubs from the Barclays Premier League deliver the right amount of money, Deila does not deny that Forster and Van Dijk may be invited to leave the building before the transfer window closes.
"Everything can happen," he said. "I have lived through these transfer windows and you must adjust. Someone goes out and someone comes in. That kind of circulation can be good for the team.
"When you are a winning team, it's very important to get new faces in because you keep up the energy and the challenges within the side.Still having the Champions League could also make it easier to get players in."
Deila is hardly likely, having said that, to be able to perform much surgery to his team before the trip to Slovenia on August 19 or 20. In the immediate aftermath of Celtic's defeat at the hands of Legia, Deila stated his side was "not good enough". Is there now a problem in returning to those same players and asking them to produce a season-defining result?
"No," he said. "I was saying we need to build up a new team, but you can't turn around every player. We need to start from scratch with each other and build a philosophy of how we want to play. I was not talking about getting 20 new players."
He also believes that having Celtic Park, previously out of commission due to Commonwealth Games-related activities, available for the return will be a bonus.
"After the first 15 minutes, I understood how important the home crowd is now," he said. "It is going to be better in Celtic Park."